How do you measure employee happiness?

One Version of a ‘Happy Dance’ – Photo thanks to USACE Afghanistan Engineer District-South, Flickr

At gThankYou!, we spend a lot of time writing about the importance of building a culture of respect, appreciation and employee happiness.  But how do you know if your employees are happy? And, how do you determine if your initiatives are working?

In “The Science Behind the Smile,” Harvard Business Review‘s Gardiner Morse spoke on the topic of measuring employee happiness with Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert, best-selling author of Stumbling on Happiness.

How to Measure Employee Happiness –
It’s As Simple As ‘How Are You’?

It’s a lot easier to know how you are doing than you think, Gilbert told Gardiner.

“It’s what your eye doctor does when she fits you for glasses. She puts a lens in front of your eye and asks you to report your experience, and then she puts another lens up, and then another. She uses your reports as data, submits the data to scientific analysis, and designs a lens that will give you perfect vision—all on the basis of your reports of your subjective experience.

People’s real-time reports are very good approximations of their experiences, and they make it possible for us to see the world through their eyes. People may not be able to tell us how happy they were yesterday or how happy they will be tomorrow, but they can tell us how they’re feeling at the moment we ask them. ‘How are you?’ may be the world’s most frequently asked question, and nobody’s stumped by it.”

In other words, have employees rate their happiness periodically (and frequently)—first to establish a baseline, and then to measure changes after you take happiness-improvement actions.

consider measuring employee happiness daily

You could start asking “how happy are you?” every single day and do something with what you find out, suggests a Hppy Enterprise blog post, “How companies measure happiness in a creative way.”

Hppy Enterprise produces employee engagement software that rates happiness, among other attributes. Article author, Paula Alexandra Clapon says there are a myriad of ways to measure employee happiness ranging from expensive and formal to affordable and informal.
Here’s a high-tech and a low-tech example of measuring happiness according to Clapton:
High tech: Atlassian, the company developing issue-tracking system Jira, which helps 60,000 or so companies worldwide organize projects.

“They realized pretty soon that its success is deeply linked with its ability to attract and keep the best software engineers. If developers are not happy with what they are doing competitors will snatch them up in no time.”

Atlassian measures employee happiness every day via iPads placed at all office-building exits. Employees report their happiness level as they leave, and the results display real-time.
Low tech: London-based social business consultancy company NixonMcInnes, has a “barometer of happiness,” which involves 3 buckets and some tennis balls. Every day before leaving the office, people place a ball either in the “happy” bucket or the “unhappy one.” The next morning, someone counts them and records the results on paper. At the end of the week the data is transferred to an Excel file and published on the company’s online internal dashboard.

Helpful online tools

There are a combination of free and paid tools online to help.

The Happiness at Work Survey lets you take a snapshot of your team’s happiness at work in an instant, and it’s free.

These apps aren’t specific to the workplace, but they’re worth a look for inspiration in tracking your workplace happiness efforts:

  • mappiness is a free iPhone app that’s part of a research project at the London School of Economics measuring and tracking happiness in the UK greater environment.  Fascinating!
  • Track Your Happiness is a scientific research project that investigates what makes life worth living.

For anonymous feedback from employees, check out this new tool from Happiily which helps employees track their happiness at work in real time, and helps managers understand how their actions impact their employees.
Measuring employee happiness may be a little more complicated than “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands,” but it doesn’t have to be rocket science either.  Have employees rate their happiness, continue to invest in ways to engage and empower workers and watch your workplace happiness soar!

For a comprehensive guide to growing a winning workplace culture of trust, respect and appreciation, download our FREE eBook: Transform Your Workplace with Gratitude.

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